Meet the ‘new’ Steve Mason. Newly relocated to Brighton, newly energised about working with people, now in possession of a new studio album.
‘Meet The Humans’ is an apt title for the third record under the Steve Mason name. Shot through with the renewal of that move and finding its author feeling ‘pretty victorious’, it fires out of the traps with the refrain ‘cause you can make it / don’t think this pain is forever’ and doesn’t look back, swinging musically across dance, pop, folk, dub, and deep house influences and remaining as lyrically adept and open as anything Steve has done back to the ‘Three Eps’. Whilst no ‘happy clappy’ collection, lyrically unafraid to pin its beliefs to its sleeve, ‘Meet The Humans’ is the sound of a songwriter in a purple patch, not just in artistic terms but of the whole 360, full-life variety.
I have a definite soft spot for the Beta Band, Mason’s nineties success, who disappeared in a cloud of rumours of bankruptcy and mental illness. I thought that was sad, and although I haven’t followed him closely, the most recent album Meet The Humans made me sit up and pay attention again. So I made sure I was in The Good Spot (just to the right of the stage) for this gig.
Mason arrived all swagger and confidence, exactly as I wasn’t expecting, dressed like something from Mad Max, in a storm of fast-strummed guitars and toe-tapping, infectious keyboards.
The things that made us all fall for Mason’s bittersweet song-writing so long ago are still here. Strong, jangly pop melodies, introspective lyrics reflecting the tiny struggles of everyday life with a tinge of psychedelic eccentricity.
The newer tracks (Planet Sizes, Alive) go down well, as does the older material, and closing song Words In My Head is a confident, sprawling epic bringing a surprisingly rich and accomplished set to a satisfying end.
“The government hate you, but I love you!” Mason calls, amongst other endearingly earnest and entirely correct political outbursts. Fight Them Back is a perfect call to arms for the oppressed masses, and indicative of what one can do with a little wisdom and perspective. What a hero!
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. This sounds exactly like the Beta Band grown up. And by grown up I emphatically do not mean tweed and elbow pads and a sensible bedtime, I mean mature, subtle, deep and unpretentious.
If you’re on the fence then trust me: this new material is pretty good stuff, but it works ten times better live.